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Ricardo Teamor - Renewable Energy Enthusiast

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What are the most exciting developments in renewable energy?

Answer by Mike Barnard:

In 2013, wind energy exceeded 300 GW global capacity. All around the world, people have stopped talking about wind energy, or researching alternatives to wind energy and are just getting on with the business of deploying wind energy.  Page on wwindea.org

Wind energy continues to be cleared by major studies of health effects, clearing the way of one falsehood which has been slowing acceptance in some places, most recently from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.  NHMRC Draft Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health released for public comment

Wind energy and health links have been tested in courts around the world and found lacking. Soon the precedent will be so strong in so many places that it will no longer be considered suitable for court time.  Wind energy health concerns fail the test of law, repeatedly

In a similar vein, anti-wind 'experts' who show up in courtrooms are getting knocked back heavily as judges get sick of their non-expertise, extremely weak studies and waste of court time and dollars. Fourteen experts have been dismissed outright or their evidence found to be without merit in recent court cases. Anti-wind non-experts rejected by courts and tribunals

Wind turbines just keep getting bigger and more efficient. The world's largest, an 8 MW brute, just went into operation in a test site in preparation for offshore deployment.  World’s Largest Wind Turbine Starts Generating Power For First Time

Meanwhile, capacity factors of 50% are being seen regularly in the United States and Brazil.  Wind Turbine Net Capacity Factor — 50% the New Normal?  Brazil wind generation hits record capacity factor in 2012 – report – SeeNews Renewables

And one of my favourites, a floating wind turbine started generating electricity offshore from the Fukushima nuclear facility.  Floating Fukushima wind farm to energize region's hopes and households – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun

Suggestions that there might be viable alternatives to three-bladed horizontal axis wind turbines either onshore or offshore continue to be unfounded, so while there's still some noise on this front, investors are putting real money into deployment instead of research.
Airborne wind energy: a collection of challenging compromises
Vertical axis wind turbines aren’t replacing horizontal axis offshore turbines

What are the most exciting developments in renewable energy?

Renewable Energy: What are the ways, beyond government subsidies, that can help in making renewable energy technologies more competitive?

Answer by Mike Barnard:

Summary:  Remove hidden subsidies on other forms of electricity generation and provide accurate accounting and costing for negative externalities. Under accurate, level-playing field accounting, renewables are much less expensive than alternatives and would be built out much more rapidly.  There would still be a place for significant hydro and nuclear for base load, coal would disappear and natural gas would be used much more sparingly.  The US Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the various Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) programs attempt to level the playing field without unwinding decades of entrenched mechanisms that tilt the market heavily in favour of traditional forms of generation.

  1. Eliminate hidden subsidies for fossil fuels and fossil fuel generation.

    In the United States, credible estimates of annual fossil fuel subsidies range from $10 billion to $52 billion annually.[1]

    [5]

    [9]

  2. Eliminate hidden subsidies and support for nuclear power.

    [2]

  3. Require coal generation to pay more or all of its negative externalities of 17.8 cents / KWh:

    [3]

  4. Quantify and require natural gas generation to pay some or all of the negative externalities of fracking, GHGs (50 times higher than wind or nuclear although much better than coal) and pollution, presumed to be lower than coal but still in the range of 5-10 cents per KWh. [4]

    [6]

    [8]

Removing these hidden subsidies which society is paying makes the costs of wind — currently at 5-8 cents per KWh in decent sites and expected to be at grid parity by 2014 — and solar seem like a bargain.

References:
[1] http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fue…
[2] http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/doc…
[3] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/s…
[4] http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natur…
[5] http://cleantechnica.com/2011/10…
[6] http://www.naturalgas.org/enviro…
[7] How effective are wind turbines compared to other sources of energy?
[8] http://en.openei.org/apps/LCA/
[9] http://www.nytexaminer.com/2012/…

Renewable Energy: What are the ways, beyond government subsidies, that can help in making renewable energy technologies more competitive?

Is nuclear energy “renewable energy”?

Answer by Mike Barnard:

Stealing heavily from myself:

Renewable energy has the following characteristics:

  1. It harvests energy from an existing major, ongoing process in the earth's climate or geology
  2. It does not deplete that process in any significant way and/or the energy must be renewed by external inputs in human timeframes
  3. It does not cause extraordinary harm to biological or climate systems as a result of harvesting the energy

By that definition:

Nuclear generation takes radioactive isotopes laid down when the Earth was formed, refines them into sufficient density to create nuclear fission, then uses the resulting heat to create steam to drive turbines to create electricity. It takes a tiny fraction of the materials of the earth and the potential energy locked into them to create electricity. Extraction and refinement of nuclear ore is environmentally damaging locally to the mine and refinery, but not in inordinate amounts compared to fossil fuel alternatives. Nuclear energy does not create environmental or health impacts of any significance when running compared to alternatives.

VERDICT: if geothermal is renewable, then nuclear is RENEWABLE

Is nuclear energy "renewable energy"?

What are the best resources to learn about solar power?

Answer by Thom Westergren:

I suggest you take a class from these guys: http://www.solarenergy.org

You can either go to one of their multiple locations or take the classes online.

Solar Energy International has a long track record and a great reputation for training people in the industry. Taking a class, rather than self-study has a lot of advantages. One of which is that it can help you get a job in the field, if you are really interested.

Another good resource, if you're interested in any do-it-yourself work, can be found with Home Power Magazine: Renewable Energy & Efficiency Technologies

Lastly, Build It Solar is a great resource of actual project information, if you just want to tinker around. It's more of a hacking or "maker" kind of thing, where Home Power has a more serious and professional approach and scope. Solar energy projects for Do It Yourselfers to save money and reduce pollution

What are the best resources to learn about solar power?

What factors are keeping solar energy from mainstream adoption? Is there an anti clean-energy lobby that is not letting prices become eco…

Answer by Vincent Maldia:

There is a lobby yes. But its not all powerful. If it were then climate change would not be so widely accepted.

The reason why is rooted in simple science and simple economics. Wind and solar have disadvantages like initial cost and intermittency.

Cost may seem low specially if you only limit yourselves to 1. cost comparisons in western rich countries and 2. Look only at watts not watt hours (this is because watts only show the best case, the peak power possible, which does not happen all the itme) and 3. ignore other costs like the cost of storage/backup power and redundancy.

However storage and backup power is not needed in large amounts if intermittent power sources remain below a certain percentage of the grid, i.e. grid tie. By percentage of the grid I mean the entire grid which for a heavily interconnected area includes the grids of several interconnected countries. Sure even fossil fuel and nculear uses some storage, but this isnt strictly necessary, it just makes it more economical by allowing the plant to run more of the time at near 100%. And the amount of storage needed by fossil fuels and nuclear is much much smaller than if large amounts of intermittent power sources were needed.

China believes in soalar and wind, otherwise it would not have built so many solar and wind power stations. However china has learned from the lessons of the west. It has seen from actual examples what is hype and what solar and wind can really do. It seems to have learned that a post fossil fuel electricity grid with too much solar and wind is too intermittent and too expensive, thats why it uses solar  and wind only as part of an energy mix.

Comment: New coal power plants in China – a (carbon) bubble waiting to burst – Energydesk

In 2013-2014 china built on a watt hour basis near equal amounts of wind, solar and nuclear and a huge amount of hydro.

What factors are keeping solar energy from mainstream adoption? Is there an anti clean-energy lobby that is not letting prices become eco…

What factors are keeping solar energy from mainstream adoption? Is there an anti clean-energy lobby that is not letting prices become eco…

Answer by Craig Lawrence:

A2A: There are anti clean energy forces in the US that are attempting to put roadblocks in the way of PV adoption. Primarily the electric utilities who are most impacted by lost revenue from distributed generation, and who are forced in some cases to pay higher prices for utility scale solar than they would like due to state renewable energy mandates. They are fighting back in a number of ways, including attempting to get additional fixed charges levied on customers who install solar, adjusting rate structures to make solar less valuable to customers, and trying to limit the amount of solar through various regulatory measures. The poster child for this is APS (Arizona Public Service), who has been losing the battle APS Proposes to Withdraw Fee Increase for Solar Customers. These efforts are being supported by fairly powerful groups, such as the Koch brothers The Koch Attack on Solar Energy

They are not, however, preventing solar prices from becoming economical. The price of solar has been dropping steadily for years, and quite dramatically over the last 5 years. There is really not much anyone can do to stop solar at this point. We are literally within years of it becoming economical without any subsidies in a majority of the US. 

What factors are keeping solar energy from mainstream adoption? Is there an anti clean-energy lobby that is not letting prices become eco…